This past weekend, I attended a local church here in North Carolina. It's a huge church... at least, by my standards. The entire sermon was thought provoking, challenging. Honestly, I don't think I put my pen down once during the entire hour. But of all the things I jotted down, it was this statements that struck a chord in my heart: Our prayers, so often, center around the absence of problems... but, instead, they should focus on the presence of God. I immediately began to think about my countless prayers, wondering how many times I've actually prayed for the presence of God. I know that I constantly ask Him to "show up" and solve my problems... but I was at a complete and total loss for the last time I simply asked for His presence to be revealed to me... not because I wanted anything from Him... but, because I simply wanted HIM.
This has been my prayer ever since Sunday... praying for God's presence, encouragement that He is with me... and for that to be enough... for that to be MORE than enough. I stopped praying for direction... stopped praying for "the fleece"... stopped praying for jobs or septic systems. I've been "simply" praying for Him. I say simple... but it really wasn't. When you've constantly prayed... your entire life... for the gifts of God... it's anything but "simple" to pray for the presence of God (at least, for me)... because you're awash with the guilt and shame associated with your selfish motivations. But, thankfully, God's grace and mercy covers all that... and, prasie God, He loves us enough to bless us despite our sinful ways.
So... back to the waiting room. I was trying to catch up on email when I came across one from Becky at The Root Cellar. They had received a negative determination letter for a grant I had written for the dental clinic. It was one of those organizations that has a policy of not giving money to "religious programming" but, I applied anyway... because, last time I checked, dentistry didn't fall into the relm of religious programming. Well... I guess the Trustees felt differently, because it was the fastest decline I have EVER seen in my 20 years of grant writing. In my complete and utter frustration and (if I'm honest) disgust, I called Jamie to vent about the letter: my frustration that 20+ hours of work was tossed aside without any serious consideration for the need of our dental clinic and the people we help; the fact that the name of Jesus Christ is so offensive to some (not necessarily in this case... just a general thought that crosses my mind); that "Bridges to Nowhere" get millions of dollars in funding, but I can't get $19,000 for a digital x-ray machine! A little dramatic, but, I'm passionate about my work!
Well, I was unaware that an elderly lady, while fixing her coffee, was listening in to our conversation. As she was getting ready to leave, she slipped $20 under my coffee cup and said: "It's not $20,000, but it's a start. Keep up the good fight." As she walked away, I completely lost it. All I could say was "Oh my God. I can't believe it" Over and over, through my sobs. Poor Jamie thought I got bad news about my mom and was frantic for me to explain what was going on. Once I was able to compose myself, I was able to explain what had just happen... now constantly repeating "God is so good." Now, obviously $20 is a far cry from $20,000... but this lady could have given me $1,000,000 and I wouldn't have been any more encouraged or excited at that exact moment. God made His presence known... His encouragement tangible. Without asking for a sign. Without pleading for direction. He gave me an incredible blessing... and I was able to understand and acknowledge that it came from Him. Again, He made me aware of the need to be obedient to the pricking of my heart in those wierd moments that involve reaching out to a complete stranger. Realizing that He is much bigger that my insecurities, my inhibitions, my embarrassment. That denying His prompting is, ultimately, refusing to acknowledge His presence and authority. His presence in our lives is certain, our awareness... not so much. I'm even more challenged by the thought of praying for His presence to be revealed... both TO me and THROUGH me!